December 23, 2013

Building From Your Insight

by Ryan Jacoby

I’ve been helping out a great team launching an interesting retail company. We’re looking for new ways to communicate their value proposition to prospective customers.

To get inspired, we’ve been spending time with prospects, observing how they shop and, then, how they interact with our product and competitive products. Based on what we’ve seen, we’ve come up with lots of ideas on how to improve our initial experience and communicate how we’re different.

Faced with this list of potential improvements, the team was beating themselves up. But they shouldn’t.

They weren’t giving themselves enough credit for the depth of their insight into their customers and the problems they were solving for them. They understood their situation, felt their pain, knew what was confusing, and could predict the roadblocks and challenges they’d have. They knew their customers cold.

If you start from a place of understanding of your customer — from a place of insight — you’ve got an amazing head start. One that’s hard to beat.

So what’s an insight really?

One way to think about it came to me a few years ago when I shared a stage with Richard Kelly, the VP of Customer Loyalty at GE Capital. Richard said that “an insight is a profound understanding of the customer.” (emphasis mine)

I love that definition. I’d add that an insight:

-describes not only behavior (what people do), but also motivation (why they do it);

-inspires action;

-is truthful and distinct; and,

-is often counterintuitive or arises from a juxtaposition of different ideas.

Strategic insights are those that make sense for a company and brand to act upon.

A couple of examples:

-I hate to go running, but I love to come back from running.

-The act of saving feels good to me regardless of the amount I’m saving.

At Collaborative Fund, we’re privileged to work with entrepreneurs who possess these insights.  Jonathan Hefter and the team at  Neverware know the challenges that those responsible for technology infrastructure in large networked organizations face.  Adda Birnir understands  what her audience is feeling as they contemplate  learning to codeTristan Walker at  Walker & Co. understands the unique challenges and opportunities within the world of health and beauty for people of color.

Experimentation can help you mitigate the cost of being wrong and evolve quickly, but there’s nothing as valuable as customer understanding and intimacy. You can’t get there with an insight alone, but I wouldn’t bet on getting there without one. What’s your insight?